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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 18 April 2020 (Virus outbreak can potentially spur next quantum leap for computing (Mint))



Virus outbreak can potentially spur next quantum leap for computing (Mint)



Mains Paper 3:Science and Tech 
Prelims level: Quantum Computing 
Mains level: Uses of quantum computing in health sector 

Context:

  • Shortly after China welcomed the new year, the whole world was pressurized into quickly discovering a vaccine and a cure for covid-19. 
  • IBM’s Summitwas busy running numerous simulations and computations to help scientists find promising molecules to fight the pandemic.
  • The latest update says the Summit has been able to identify 77 candidate molecules that researchers can use in trials, and this was achieved in just two days, while, traditionally, it has taken months to make such progress.

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But is this progress fast enough? 

  • Given that we are all living in a connected world, the global carnage wreaked by the virus before we have a viable cure will be in trillions of dollars and thousands of jobs; in this case, we truly don’t have a second to waste.
  • Today, faster molecular discoveries are limited by the computing capacity, as much as the need for scientists to write codes for harnessing the computing power. 
  • It is no secret that classical computing power is plateauing and, till we have scalable artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), scientists will have to write code for not only different scenarios, but also for different computing platforms.
  • What we need today is more computing power and, given that we have already neared the peak of classical computing, the solution probably is quantum computing.
  • Not just vaccines, quantum computing can accelerate many innovations, such as hyper-individualized medicines, 3-D printed organs, search engines for the physical world and, maybe, even the iron-man suit. 
  • All innovations currently constrained by the size of transistors used in classical computing chips can be unleashed through quantum computing.

What next? 

  • Quantum computing uses the ability of sub-atomic particles to exist in multiple states simultaneously, until it is observed. 
  • Unlike classical computers that can store information in just two values, that is 1 or 0, quantum computing uses qubits that can exist in any superposition of these values, enabling quantum computers to solve in seconds problems which a classical computer would take thousands of years to crack. 
  • The application of this technology is enormous, and just to cite a few, it can help with the discovery of new molecules, optimize financial portfolios for different risk scenarios, crack RSA encryption keys, detect stealth aircraft, search massive databases in a split second and truly enable AI.

Steps taken by the Government: 

  • In the Union budget this year, the Indian government announced investments of ₹8,000 crore for developing quantum technologies and applications.
  • Globally, too, countries and organizations are rushing to develop this technology and have already invested enormous capital towards its research. These are encouraging signs.
  • Unless we overcome classical computing limits, we will hurtle towards the modern catastrophe of frequent pandemics, uncontrollable climate change, scarcity of water, disappearing coastlines due to melting icebergs, plastic-poisoned water tables, and lifestyle diseases.

Conclusion:

  • Historically, unprecedented crises have always created more innovations than routine challenges or systematic investments. Coincidentally, current times pose similar opportunities in disguise.
  • While the last decade has given us 10x increase in quantum computing, the next quantum leap is expected from a vicious cycle of climate- or health-related catastrophes—covid-19 could be one.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 17 April 2020 (The UN cannot lead us out of this crisis (The Hindu))



The UN cannot lead us out of this crisis (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:International 
Prelims level: UN organisations 
Mains level: Role of UN multilateral bodies to combat the crisis 

Context:

  • As economic historian Adam Tooze said, “an entire model of global economic development has been brought skidding to a halt” by the Covid-19 crisis, exposing the malignant methods which have worked to channel wealth to those at the top while draining the public purse and stretching public services — upon which the health and resilience of most of us depend — to a breaking point.
  • Finding our way out
  • In rapid succession, novice UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak discovered his inner Keynes; US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin became an (unwitting) advocate of universal basic income; and German Chancellor Angela Merkel abandoned her religious devotion to strict debt and fiscal rules. 
  • Whether this will be enough to prevent another Great Depression remains to be seen. 
  • As Tooze warns, with the main centres of economic and political power disoriented, it is unclear “who will lead the way out of the crisis”.
  • Ideally, the job should fall on those institutions tasked with international cooperation and coordination. The signs so far are mixed. 

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Varying influence:

  • The World Health Organization — very much in the eye of the Covid-19 storm — has had a difficult few weeks. 
  • It was the first UN agency with universal membership, mandated to control the spread of contagious diseases, backstop public health programmes, formualte standards on nutrition and hygiene and establish a centre for comparative health data. 
  • But as historian Mark Mazower has argued, from its earliest days, the WHO was under pressure from the US government to adopt a technical assistance approach to disease eradication, in line with advanced pharmaceutical interests, rather than an global advocate of public health policy.

Role of World Trade Organization:

  • The World Trade Organization is the most recent arrival to the multilateral family based in Geneva. 
  • Emerging from the GATT as the custodian of the Uruguay Round’s expanded trade agenda and a standard bearer for open and efficient global markets, it is uniquely blessed with a dispute mechanism that can discipline reprobate governments that break its rules. 
  • This has made it the institution of choice for advanced countries determined to promote the kind of corporate-friendly rules that align with their own economic interests. 
  • That two-stage dispute mechanism almost died in December, as the US spread its unilateralism virus.
  • Nothing to contribute
  • A different message might be expected from Azevado’s counterpart at the UNCTAD, an organisation established over 50 years ago by developing countries to support their efforts to redress the biases and asymmetries in the trading system. 
  • In truth, the UNCTAD has been drifting in a neoliberal direction since its nineth conference in South Africa in 1996, albeit with moments of resistance by previous Secretary-Generals from Brazil and Thailand. 

Way forward:

  • Geneva is, no doubt, a pleasant enough place from which to indulge in the niceties of international diplomacy. 
  • But its multilateral credentials have been withering on the vine of comfortable complacency for years, too distant from the harsh realities of neoliberal capitalism in the developing world.
  • Too dependent on the big financial players in Washington for policy guidance and too close to the big European donors for the money that keeps the Geneva international machine ticking over.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 17 April 2020 (Ahead of the Covid curve (Indian Express))



Ahead of the Covid curve (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2:Health 
Prelims level: COVID curve
Mains level: Kerala model of health infrastructure system 

Context:

  • The COVID curve in Kerala is nearly 50 per cent while the all-India average is around 11. 
  • While the mortality rate among the infected is 0.5 per cent in Kerala, the all-India average is 3.4 per cent. 
  • The transmission rate of a primary carrier is 2.6 while in Kerala it is only 0.4.

Preparing for the next challenge: 

  • Kerala is preparing for the next challenge, the outcome of which will determine the result of the war against COVID. 
  • Lifting of the lockdown is going to result in an influx of returning migrants from foreign countries and other states. 

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Preparedness:

  • That is the key word to the success of Kerala and the key lesson to be learned from it. 
  • The single most important factor that enabled us to be prepared for the COVID is the strength of our public health system. 
  • All over the globe, we are witnessing serious market failures in the health sector in the context of the pandemic crisis. 
  • Policymakers are learning the hard way of the importance of a public health network.
  • The morale of health personnel has been exceptionally high. 
  • Special training, protective gear, scientific duty rotation and, most importantly, societal empathy and solidarity, have all contributed. 

Route map for COVID positive cases:

  • A route map of each COVID positive case is prepared and given publicity, alerting everybody who might have been in contact. 
  • The protocol of cycles of intense test, trace, isolate and treatment has been the norm. 
  • Kerala has the highest test rate in the country. Break the Chain Campaign to promote social distancing has been successful. This is indeed a very important lesson. 
  • Lockdown by itself is not going to contain the COVID spread. It would continue to multiply within households and dormitories. 
  • Testing has been woefully insufficient in the national response so far.

Economic revival challenges: 

  • The lockdown destroys livelihoods and it is the duty of the state to ensure subsistence through income transfers and free rations. 
  • The transfer of Rs 500 to Jan Dhan accounts and additional 5 kg grain rations have been woefully inadequate. 
  • The payment to construction workers, which is a major component of the Centre`s package, is from the state-level construction workers’ welfare funds.
  • Lack of adequate financial resources has been the biggest impediment faced by the government. 
  • The state’s own revenues have dried up. The GST compensation is in four month arrears. Credit is freezing for the SLR bonds. 

Way forward: 

  • There are no sufficient resources for relief let alone for the stimulus after the exit from the lockdown. 
  • The Central government has to step in and ensure adequate fiscal space to the states.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 17 April 2020 (Fighting on two fronts (Indian Express))



Fighting on two fronts (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2:International 
Prelims level: Afghan National Defence and Security Forces
Mains level: Two front challenges for Afghanistan government  

Context:

  • Afghanistan is facing both COVID-19 and terrorism simultaneously. 
  • The Taliban are not to be trusted and they have violated many promises, especially the agreement on the reduction of violence. 
  • Currently, they are fighting against the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) in different parts of the country — the Afghan security forces have repelled every attack so far. 
  • With the support of our international partners, especially NATO and the Resolute Support Mission (RS) in Afghanistan, the ANDSF has had a few notable achievements of late. 
  • The Afghan security forces are experienced and well-trained to safeguard the country’s security.

Raise SAARC fund: 

  • Earlier, the government approved a contribution of $1 million to the SAARC Emergency Fund to fight COVID-19 in South Asian countries. 
  • SAARC leaders held a virtual conference on March 15 and emphasised cooperation and joint efforts to fight the pandemic. 

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Establishment of the Coronavirus Task Force:

  • The Afghan government has established a technical team that is working with the National Security Council and the Vice President of Afghanistan is leading the Coronavirus Task Force. 
  • It seems they have many vulnerabilities, from refugees and open borders to the dearth of high-level diagnostic capabilities and shortage of good quality medical amenities. 
  • Thousands of refugees are coming to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran. 
  • Afghanistan is the gateway to Central Asia so they need regional and international cooperation. 
  • The WHO, like other UN units, has not contributed as much as we hoped in Afghanistan during this time. 
  • Their presence and investment in the country for the past 18 years has been questionable. 
  • This is the right time for WHO-Kabul to take proper action based on regional and international experiences.

Five key aspects: 

  • The President’s strategy to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic has five key aspects: 
  • One, acknowledgement. We have to accept that the pandemic is a threat and requires everyone’s support and contribution. 
  • Two, that it can spread everywhere and to everyone.
  • Three, adversity. We are not at this stage so far, but we have to be ready for such a scenario. 

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Way ahead: 

  • Right now, there is no cure or vaccination for this novel coronavirus. 
  • The only solution is to contain its spread and prevent serious repercussions on peoples’ health and economic systems across the country. 
  • Employing preventive measures like staying at home, taking care of children and the elderly (parents and grandparents, and those who have an illness), stopping unnecessary movement, shopping on behalf of the family once or twice a week, respecting the lockdown measures, supporting the government’s decisions and listening to the advice of healthcare officials.

Conclusion: 

  • We must thank the incredible nurses, doctors, healthcare officials, support staff, police and all other security forces who are working hard around the clock to fight the coronavirus and the terrorists. 
  • Those who lost their lives while fighting COVID-19 will be remembered in the same manner as those who lost their lives on duty in uniform, fighting terrorism to bring peace, security and stability to the country and our region.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 17 April 2020 (Grounded by Covid-19 (Indian Express))



Grounded by Covid-19 (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 3:Economy 
Prelims level: Low-cost carrier model 
Mains level: Low-cost carrier model implementation in aviation sector 

Context:

  • As airlines grapple with the corona crisis and push for a bailout, airline planning departments are already running models to analyse how planes can be profitably put back in the air. 

Key outcomes:

  • For low-cost airlines that now fly eight out of every ten passengers and rely on volumes, quick turnarounds on the ground, leased assets, high aircraft utilisation, crew-efficiency and ancillary revenue, the model is at odds with anticipated policy changes.
  • These are likely to force airline planners and strategists to rethink the low-cost carrier (LCC) model.  
  • Much uncertainty remains, but items can be planned. Key amongst these are sanitation, security procedures and social distancing. 

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Rely on LCC model: 

  • The current LCC model relies on short-ground times referred to as quick turnarounds. 
  • This helps airlines maximise the use of their most expensive and core asset: the aircraft. At $50 million per unit, it is imperative to drive as much productive utilisation as possible. 

Key challenges behind implementation process: 

  • This is achieved by ensuring a high flight time, enabled by keeping the plane for less time on the ground. 
  • Quick turnarounds also maximise labour efficiency and amortise costs driving down unit economics.
  • While measures are still being debated it can be assumed that wait times will increase, and the requirement to get to the airport early will be enhanced. 
  • As such, the convenience of low-cost travel is likely to see an impact. 
  • Further, security costs are paid for by the passenger by levies such as the passenger security fees, and the passenger facilitation charge. These are likely to go up and, in turn, will further impact the cost of travel.
  • For low-cost carriers that rely on low-fares and make money by transporting large volumes, the security measures and their impact will be detrimental to the low-cost demand. And, mitigation measures are few and far between.
  • Finally, the government has already come up with guidelines for airlines that will be allowed to fly as the lockdown restrictions are lifted. 

Conclusion: 

  • Social distancing will also impact the ability to buy food and products onboard. While for passengers, this may be quite bearable, for airlines, this will be another large hit to revenues.
  • Air travel demand is likely to be depressed. Gradually as confidence builds (or declines) depending on reports and reactions, incremental measures will be accepted. 
  • LCC model will not only require tweaking, but a transformation to enable profitability.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 17 April 2020 (Right dosage during pandemic(Indian Express))



Right dosage during pandemic(Indian Express)



Mains Paper 2:Health 
Prelims level: Telemedicine
Mains level: Requirement of Telemedicine in Indian healthcare system

Context:

  • Telemedicine is seeing an increased focus, and the government is committed to supporting its spread. 
  • Dr Ganapathy Krishnan, the Chennai-based neurosurgeon and a pioneer in telemedicine who has been promoting the idea for over 20 years.
  • The Telemedicine Society of India’s (TSI) efforts to have official guidelines passed for the practice of telemedicine in India have borne fruit.

Issuing guidelines:

  • A remotely administered practice of consultation will help stop overcrowding of hospitals during a pandemic.
  • The government has recently cleared several legal issues relating to telemedicine, including medical licences.

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Significance of the Telemedicine methodology: 

  • India has a shortage of healthcare facilities and an inadequate health infrastructure.It is a safety valve for a strained healthcare system. 
  • Telemedicine is a term encompassing methods used to examine, investigate, monitor and treat, with the patient and doctor located in different places. 
  • Unnecessary travelling is eliminated. Image acquisition, storage, display, processing and transfer form the basis of telemedicine.
  • Telehealth provides remote consultation for normal health issues that will affect 5-10% of the quarantined population. Covid-19 suspected patients mustn’t be routinely referred to casualties or OPD services in the hospitals to minimise the risk of exposure to other patients and healthcare providers. 
  • With telemedicine, a single remote clinician can cover multiple sites spread over different geographies.

Can able to work with ICU management: 

  • Telemedicine can work in ICU management as well. 
  • Makeshift improvised emergency ICUs are unlikely to have qualified doctors. Thus, handholding and telementoring are essential. 
  • An existing ICU should act as a central command station connected to new ICUs. It will make all the difference.

Key challenges: 

  • Public-private partnerships in telehealth are now operational in many states. 
  • However, erroneous interpretation of some judgements in the media has ended up questioning the very legality of providing teleconsultations. 
  • All these hurdles have been crossed now. 
  • With great strides in technology and efforts by doctors, telemedicine is finally finding its right place in healthcare.Fast-growing use also creates challenges. 

Way forward: 

  • It takes time to establish the technology infrastructure, recruit virtual providers, provide training on best practices, and educate patients about telehealth through patient-facing websites, social media and direct outreach. 
  • Digital payment must be facilitated as well. Resources need to be mobilised to build infrastructure and capacity. 
  • To encourage patients to take up telehealth options, telehealth professionals should proactively and frequently provide information.

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(Download) Old NCERT PDF : Ancient India by R. S. Sharma

(Download) Old NCERT PDF : Ancient India by R. S. Sharma

  • Medium: English
  • OLD NCERT BOOK NAME : Ancient India by R. S. Sharma
  • PRICE: FREE
  • Hosting Charges: Rs 19/- Only
  • File Type: PDF File Download Link via Email

Table of Contents :

  • Foreword 
  • Preface to the First Edition 
  • Author's Acknowledgements

1. The Importance of Ancient Indian History

2. The Construction of Ancient Indian History .

  • Material Remains--Coins-Inscriptions-Literary Sources-- Foreign Accounts Historical Sense

3. The Geographical Setting 

4. The Stone Age

  • The Old Stone Age-Phases in the Palaeolithic Age--The Late Stone Age—The New Stone Age .

5. The Stone-Copper Phase

  • Chalcolithic Settlements-Chalcolithic Cultures Importance of the Chalcolithic Phase-Limitations of Chalcolithic Cultures- The Coppor Age in India

6. The Harappan Civilization.

  • Geographical Extent-Town Planning and Structures-Agriculture-Domostication of Animals--Technology and Crafts— Trade-Political Organization-Religious Practices—The Male Deity in the Indus Valley-Tree and Animal Worship-Tho Harappan Script-Weights and Measures-Harappan Pottery-Seals --Images-Terracotta Figurines-Origin, Maturity and End

7. Advent of the Aryans and the Age of the Rig Veda

  • Original Home and Identity-Tribal Conflicts-Material LifeTribal Polity-Tribe and Family-Social Divisions-Rig Vedic Gods

8. The Later Vedic Phase : Transition to State and Social Formation .

  • Expansion in the Later Vedic Period (c. 1000-500 B.C.)-The PGW-Iron Phase Culture and Later Vedic Economy-Political Organization --Social Organization-Gods, Rituals and Philosophy

9. Jainism and Buddhism

  • Causes of Origin-Vardhamana Mahavira and Jainism-Doctrines of Jainism-Spread of Jainism ---Contribution of Jainism-Gautama Buddha and Buddhism-Doctrines of Buddhism Special Features of Buddhism and the Causes of its Spread-Causes of the Decline of Buddism-Importance and Influence of Buddhism

10. Territorial States and the First Magadhan Empire

  • The Mahajanapadas-Rise and Growth of the Magadhan Empire -Causes of Magadha's Success

11. Iranian and Macedonian Invasions

  • Iranian Invasion-Results of the Contact--Alexander's Invasion -Effects of Alexander's Invasion

12. State and Varna Society in the Age of the Buddha

  • Material Life-Administrative System-Army and Taxation The Republican Experiment-Social Orders and Legislation

13. The Age of the Mauryas

  • Chandragupta Maurya--Imperial Organization-Asoka (273-232 B.C)-Asokan Edicts--Impact of the Kalinga War--Internal Policy and Buddhism-Asoka's Place' ın History

14. Significance of the Maurya Rule!

  • State Control-Economic RegulationsSpread of Material Culture-Causes of the Fall of the Maurya Empire

15. Central Asian Contacts and Their Results

  • The Indo-Greeks-The Sakas--The Parthians-The Kushans Impact of Central Asian Contacts

16. The Age of the Satavahanas

  • Political History-Aspects of Material Culture Social Organization-Pattern of Administration-Religion--Architectura Language

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 16 April 2020 (Coronavirus crisis: Keeping up with the competition (Indian Express))



Coronavirus crisis : Keeping up with the competition (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 3:Economy
Prelims level: Competition law
Mains level: Significance and relaxations of the Competition law

Context:

  • Amidst this pandemic, businesses are being forced to either adjust or realign their response. 
  • While it is natural for companies to explore innovative means, they must remain cautious of abiding by the competition laws.

Significance of the Competition law:

  • Competition law prohibits collaboration between competitors to fix prices, restrict output, allocate markets/customers and rig bids, also called ‘cartel agreements’. 
  • These are often ascribed debasing sobriquets such as the ‘ultimate evil of antitrust’. 
  • The law prohibits an abuse of position via unfair prices or conditions for sale of goods and services.

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Conditions of the suspension of competition rules: 

  • Historically, adverse economic or social conditions have not resulted in a suspension of competition rules. 
  • Competition authorities have explicitly stated that they will continue to monitor business behaviour. 
  • However, there is also a realisation that businesses, especially competitors, amidst lockdown, may come together, communicate, and collaborate for production, distribution, transportation, and supply of essential commodities, FMCGs, and healthcare products.
  • Pharmacies, for instance, may wish to pool their stock. 
  • Supermarkets may wish to cooperate on home delivery of groceries, logistics companies may wish to ensure continuity of supplies and airlines may wish to allocate geographies. 
  • Recently, Pfizer and BioNTech entered an unprecedented collaboration to co-develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine. Such collaborations, otherwise, may have been subject to antitrust scrutiny.

Not to increase the cost of essential supplies: 

  • Competition authorities have also made it clear that the crisis should not become a “cover” for non-essential collaborations to obtain economic benefits by restricting or increasing the cost of essential supplies. 
  • In a free market, when demand outstrips supply, prices go up, and companies tend to resort to various forms of anti-competitive practices. 
  • Many competition authorities across the globe were quick to investigate such practices. 

Shortage of essential supplies to India: 

  • India is grappling with a massive shortage of foodstuff, FMCG products, and PPEs, coupled with widespread disruption in online and offline retail supply chains. 
  • India’s retail trade has incurred an estimated $30 billion in losses, and approximately 13.6 crore jobs may be affected. 
  • The government has rolled out various interim relaxations of statutory and regulatory compliance for individuals and companies under the Companies Act, IBC, Tax, Electricity Act, SEBI, and others. 
  • No exemption to any sector/class/company has yet been announced under the (Indian) Competition Act, 2002. 

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Not neglect in compliance:

  • India companies must not neglect compliance, especially those active in the FMCG, healthcare, pharmaceutical, and PPE sectors. 
  • Legal advice must be sought before making a deviation from existing practices. 
  • Another aspect, calls for companies to specifically consider competition law when asked by the government to collaborate with competitors or when approached by competitors, even if the objective is to meet public health or provide essential services.
  • Companies considering Mergers and Acquisitions deals should not be tempted to circumvent merger filings during the crisis. Commendably, the CCI has partially resumed its operations by permitting Mergers and Acquisitions filings electronically. 
  • However, deal approvals may be delayed as the CCI officers are working remotely till May 3 (which may be extended). 
  • Hence, companies should strategise how to deal with timing risk: ensure that long-stop dates are sufficient and factor in that merger control approvals may take longer than expected.

Way forward:

  • It remains to be seen if CCI takes a cue from other jurisdictions and waives certain collaborations/compliances from the purview of the Competition Act, while ensuring, at the same time that any such regulatory relaxation is not misused. 
  • The companies and related industry associations may approach the government where they feel that collaborations in their sector warrant exemption. 
  • The government will likely consult the CCI for any temporary suspension since it is already under pressure to minimise the resulting damage to health and economy.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 16 April 2020 (Coronavirus pandemic: Technology at core of all strategies to mitigate economic impact(Indian Express))



Coronavirus pandemic: Technology at core of all strategies to mitigate economic impact(Indian Express)



Mains Paper 3:Science and Tech
Prelims level: World Economic Forum report
Mains level: Adaptations of technologies to develop future-proof workforce strategies

Context:

  • The nationwide lockdown for three weeks announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to contain the COVID-19 spread was, as expected, extended beyond April 14 for another few weeks. 

How will the country continue to control the pandemic? 

  • The developments are being keenly watched, and data is being monitored. 
  • Every effort—from packages to boost the economy and focus on healthcare to applause for frontline workers and appeals on humane grounds.

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Work and life will never be the same again:

  • The world will see major social, behavioural, and social changes. 
  • Amidst all this, what has emerged is that technology will play a key role at every level, both in the public and private sector. 
  • Firms that provide technology-based solutions in various fields, like healthcare, urban reforms, climate change, education, and many others, can become crucial problem-solvers during this time of crisis.

World Economic Forum report:

  • The World Economic Forum report had indicated that the jobs of the future are set to grow by 51% in the horizon up to 2020.
  • It had projected 6.1 million job opportunities globally, mainly in the adoption of new technologies—giving rise to greater demand for green economy jobs, and roles at the forefront of the data-and-AI economy. 
  • While these numbers would no longer hold good following COVID-19, technological progress is essential to economic growth, and can accelerate the efforts toward economic revival. 

Investments into technology:

  • At this point of time and even after, can save the time it takes to produce a good or deliver a service, contribute to the overall profits of a business, increase business output rate efficiency, and increase division of labour and job specialisation.
  • Post the Coronavirus crisis, the world would see increased use of virtual technology for meetings, substantial investment in science and medicine, use of AI and cloud-based technology, increase in e-learning, wide use of telemedicine, and reduction in overheads, including lower rents and travel costs. 
  • Work from home and virtual meetings will be part of routine work culture. Governments are going to be bigger, stronger, and hopefully more efficient, with a rise in nationalism and self-dependency. 
  • Even the government would need to increase its use of technology and automation in all areas, including management of its social sector programmes across health, education, public distribution, employment guarantee, etc, besides its regular operations. 
  • There will be a reduction in field visits, and human interaction.

Develop future-proof workforce strategies: 

  • It is here that a collaborative action by industry and other stakeholders to develop future-proof workforce strategies, and support at-risk workers with reskilling and upskilling will play a crucial role. 
  • Not only will it have the potential to facilitate digital transformation but can also limit job losses in the wake of the current recession. 
  • A preliminary assessment International Labour Organization report, COVID-19 and the world of work.
  • Impacts and responses mentions that nearly 25 million jobs could be lost due to the Coronavirus crisis. 
  • If COVID-19 persists further, the numbers would be much higher, as is already being seen in the US.

Conclusion:

  • Hence, at a time like this, all key stakeholders should be putting their heads together to mitigate the economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, and suggest implementable strategies. 
  • Technology will be at the core of all these strategies, especially in a sector like healthcare.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 16 April 2020 (Economic liberalisation and its faults (The Hindu))



Economic liberalisation and its faults (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 3:Economy 
Prelims level: Licence Raj
Mains level: Pros and cons of the economic liberalisation

Context:

  • Dr. Manmohan Singh’s 1991-92 Budget speech marked the beginning of the end of the ‘Licence Raj’ in India. 
  • The Budget also announced the reduction of import duties and paved the way for foreign-manufactured goods to flow into India. 
  • Following this, most of the manufacturing sector was opened up to foreign direct investment. 
  • India’s industrial policy was virtually junked, and policymakers and the political leadership became contemptuous of the idea of self-reliance. 

A disastrous model:

  • In the late 1980s, transnational corporations started shifting the production base to smaller companies in developing countries, especially Asia, in search of cheap labour and raw materials. 
  • Developed countries supported the move because shifting the polluting and labour-intensive industries suited them as long as ownership remained with their companies. 

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Emergence of China:

  • Though many developing countries participated in the global production/value/supply chains, the substantial value addition in developing countries happened in a few production hubs, of which China emerged to be a major one. 
  • Manufacturing shifted from a decentralised production system spread across different counties to just a few locations. 
  • However, countries like China defied the logic of supply/value chains ensuring substantial value addition for themselves. 
  • They even carried out backward integration and thus emerged as global manufacturing hubs for certain products. 
  • In the case of health products, China became the global supplier of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical devices diagnostics. 

Implications for the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • The resultant loss of manufacturing base has affected the ability of many governments, including of developed countries, to put up an effective response to the crisis. 
  • The U.K. Prime Minister asked the country’s manufacturers to produce ventilators in order to provide care for critical COVID-19 patients. 
  • Similarly, the U.S. President invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to ramp up N95 mask production. 
  • Under this legislation, the U.S. President can direct U.S. manufacturers to shift from their normal manufacturing activities to produce goods according to the directions of the government. 
  • Similarly, the French Health Minister stated that the country may nationalise vaccine companies if necessary. Spain nationalised all its private hospitals. 
  • Israel and Chile issued compulsory licences to ensure that medicines are affordable. 

Economic growth led by the private sector: 

  • In an indirect show of power, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma sent a flight containing 5.4 million face masks, kits for 1.08 million detection tests, 40,000 sets of protective clothing and 60,000 protective face shields to the U.S. 
  • This exposes the poor state of preparedness and dependence on imports for essential goods required to meet the challenge of any major disease outbreak. 

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How economic liberalisation has damaged the government’s capacity?

  • In India, economic liberalisation has damaged the government’s capacity in two ways. 

Firstly,

  • It incapacitated the government to respond to emergencies based on credible information. 
  • The dismantling of the ‘Licence Raj’ resulted in the elimination of channels of information for the government, which is crucial to make informed policy choices. 
  • For instance, as part of the removal of ‘Licence Raj’, the government stopped asking for information from the manufacturer to file the quantity of production of various medicines. 
  • As a result, it has taken weeks now and a series of meetings for the government to gather information about stocks and the production capacity of pharmaceutical companies. 
  • Similarly, there were difficulties in finding out India’s production capacity of PPE, medical devices and diagnostics.
  • The only government data available in the public domain is with regard to the production of vaccines. 

Secondly, 

  • The logic and policies of economic liberalisation seriously undermined the manufacturing capabilities of health products in India. 
  • The short-sighted policy measures, with the objective of enhancing profitability of the private sector, allowed the import of raw materials from the cheapest sources and resulted in the debasing of the API industry, especially in essential medicine. 
  • According to a report of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), nearly 70% of India’s API import is from China. 
  • The CII report lists nearly 58 API where the dependence is 90% to 100%. 
  • The disruption in the supply of API due to the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted the production of not only medicines required for COVID-19 patients, but also of other essential medicines in India. 
  • As a cost-effective producer of medicines, the world is looking to India for supply, but it cannot deliver due to its dependence on China, which has also forced India to impose export restrictions on select medicines. 

The dangers of dependency:

  • Similar dependence exists with regard to PPE, medical devices and diagnostic kits. The 100% dependence on Reagents, an important chemical component for testing, is limiting the capacity of the government from expanding testing because the cost of each test is ₹4,500. 
  • A population of 1.33 billion requires a large number of tests. Dependence on imports affects the ability of Indian diagnostic companies to provide an affordable test for all those who want to test for COVID-19. 
  • There are only a few domestic manufacturers who can produce PPE and medical devices like ventilators. Now the country is not able to get required quantities of test kits, PPE and parts of ventilators through importation. 
  • In the name of economic efficiency, India allowed unconditional imports of these products and never took note of the dangers of dependency. 

Global supply/productionchains:

  • Global supply/production chains not only destroyed the manufacturing base in developed and developing countries; they also resulted in loss of jobs and poor working conditions in these sectors.
  • Developing countries were asked to ease their labour protection laws to facilitate global production and supply chains popularly known as global value chains. 
  • As a result, people were forced to work in precarious working conditions without any social security net. 
  • This created an unorganised army of labourers and is preventing many developing country governments from effectively offering relief. 

Conclusion:

  • A virus has made us rethink our obsession with the economic efficiency theory. 
  • It implores us to put in place an industrial policy to maintain core capacity in health products so that we can face the next crisis more decisively.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 16 April 2020 (Corona bond : On Eurozone COVID-19 rescue package (The Hindu))



Corona bond : On Eurozone COVID-19 rescue package (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:International 
Prelims level: Corona Bond
Mains level: Requirement of corona bond for revival of eurozone 

Context:

  • Deliberations on the €540-billion emergency rescue package that Eurozone Finance Ministers agreed to underscore the difficult road ahead to chart the economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis. 
  • They also decided to open an emergency credit line in a fortnight, raise the lending capacity of the European Investment Bank and back the European Commission’s €100-billion unemployment insurance scheme. 

Expand its asset purchase programme:

  • The European Central Bank in March decided to expand its asset purchase programme by €750-billion over the next nine months.It took to save the single currency. 
  • But the current formula has stoked controversy, like during the economic meltdown, over burden-sharing between the richer members in the north and the poorer states in the south. 

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Opposed demands: 

  • The Netherlands initially opposed demands from Italy.
  • That because, the country worst affected by the virus outbreak, that the pandemic credit to be issued by the European Stability Mechanism be stripped of any conditionalities. 
  • Rome’s reasoning that the public health emergency was universal and symmetrical may have influenced the final deal, which allows governments borrowing from the bailout fund to spend up to 2% of GDP on direct and indirect costs of the pandemic without strings attached. 

Issuance of the Corona Bond:

  • France, Italy and Spain, the bloc’s three largest economies, with six other members in the euro area wrote in late March to the European Council President, renewing calls for joint issuance of Eurobonds, now dubbed corona bonds. 
  • The idea of mutual issuance of debt has drawn only a lukewarm response from Berlin, Amsterdam and the bloc’s other members. 
  • The cracks have appeared in the Netherlands’ ruling coalition over the government’s orthodox fiscal stance, where the opposition Labour and Green parties already advocate Eurobonds. 

Way forward: 

  • With the Eurozone’s three largest economies after Germany throwing their weight behind the new financial instrument, it may not be long before the bloc’s fiscal hawks rethink their stance. 
  • The economic and political consequences of failure on this count would hamper the post-pandemic recovery, and could affect European solidarity. 
  • European leaders would do well to address this fact when they formulate an economic recovery after the crisis.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 16 April 2020 (A narrowing window : On extension of lockdown (The Hindu))



A narrowing window : On extension of lockdown (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:Governance 
Prelims level: Confirmatory test
Mains level: Implications of the extensions of the lockdown 

Context:

  • The Centre has accepted the view of several States to extend the national lockdown for the novel coronavirus until May 3. 

Background:

  • The decision provides comfort and continuity to those in charge of containing the pandemic, but it is a small window within which an orderly exit must be planned. 
  • While announcing the extension, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of incentivising areas that avert a spike in cases — over 10,000 nationally — through rigorous enforcement of the restrictions. 
  • These areas are to be allowed limited exemptions in activity after April 20, once they pass the ‘litmus test’ and are not at risk of becoming hotspots. 

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Need affordable confirmatory test:

  • Such a scheme naturally presumes that everyone can get a free or highly affordable confirmatory test for viral infection or recovery, which could place them in a green territory. 
  • Again, this has to be aligned with well-recognised protocols on healthy behaviour to stop new infections.

Fill the gaps:

  • The Centre’s lockdown is the most rigorous globally, but it has witnessed severe gaps in implementation. 
  • The Home Ministry’s original 21-day order and subsequent enabling amendments on farming had clear clauses, many States did not abide by them. 
  • The Union Home Secretary has had to restate the order’s provisions allowing inter- and intra-State movement of goods vehicles. 
  • Active follow-up with State governments and clear instructions to enforcement agencies are necessary to help the public adhere to a curfew. 

Intentions translate into results:

  • The Prime Minister, who has affirmed the need to make full use of the rabi harvest, must ensure that intentions translate into results, and produce reaches the market. 
  • Failed communication — States are partly responsible — has resulted in distressing instances of arbitrary and often violent policing.
  • Further extensions of a lockdown appear less and less feasible, as pressure builds up in an economy rendered moribund by the coronavirus. 

Impact on migrant workers: 

  • Millions of workers are already dependent on meagre income substitution measures and food donations, and many face escalating private debt. 
  • The Finance Ministry’s welfare schemes need to be reviewed, and enhanced relief provided to all workers rendered unemployed through funds infusion and provision of food for at least six months. 
  • Those who have lost jobs, and senior citizens, should be able to enrol in the PDS online immediately. 
  • A gradual reopening of activity after May 3, going beyond essential services will require classification of infection risk for various groups, such as school and college students, teachers, and workers. 

Conclusion: 

  • The reality of COVID-19 is that there cannot be a return to normal overnight, and governments must plan for a sequential restoration of activity. 
  • The effort should be to enable the workforce, ensuring its health and safety.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 15 April 2020 (Optimal delivery or mere optics in Bodo peace deal? (Indian Express))



Optimal delivery or mere optics in Bodo peace deal? (Indian Express)



Mains Paper 3: Security 
Prelims level: Bodo peace deal
Mains level: Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism

Context:

  • The Bodo peace deal poses tricky questions for India in general and far-eastern India in particular. 
  • The deal was announced on 27 January in New Delhi in an attempt to bring closure to a conflict in the homelands of the Bodo people—or Boro, as they call themselves—in Assam. 
  • A formal surrender-and-integrate ceremony is intended for later this week.

Background:

  • Four factions of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), along with an influential Bodo students’ organization and a Bodo civilian pressure group, signed the peace agreement with the central and Assam governments. 
  • Among other concessions, the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts, the name given to Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri, the four contiguous districts bordering Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh, will now be known as Bodoland Territorial Region.

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Major challenges towards uprotted Bodo rebellion:

  • Indeed, it could also affect the ongoing Naga peace process, leading Naga rebels to demand territorial and administrative autonomy in Naga homelands in Manipur, which will trigger a firestorm of politics, and ethnic tension between the Nagas and the Meitei, the largest ethnic group in Manipur whose language, culture and history dominate the state.
  • There is already an inherent vulnerability to the Bodo peace deal even without the overhang of ceding territory. 
  • This is rooted in the birth of the Bodo rebellion, which began in the 1980s not on account of slights from India, but administrative and development apathy of the state of Assam, and a feeling that Bodo, the people, the language, the identity, were subsumed by the Assamese and migrants. 
  • The initial demand for Bodoland, which grew out of a students’ movement (in much the same way, ironically, as a movement led by students in Assam that later birthed armed rebellion by the United Liberation Front of Asom), came even earlier, in the early 1970s.

Way ahead:

  • This vulnerability extends to other parts of Assam and far-eastern India and indeed any geography in India that either has active conflict, or has neutralized conflict with military or policing dominance and now hopes to seed positivity with governance and development. 
  • How much independence will Bodoland Territorial Council, which is now nominally responsible for administration and development, and which has purse-strings and political-strings tied to Dispur, Assam’s capital, be accorded?
  • The Kokrajhar-based council has elections due for its next five-year term. Elections were last held in April 2015. 
  • The Bodoland People’s Front, the civilian avatar of the Bodoland Liberation Tigers that signed a peace deal in 2003, a deal which led to both the birth of the council and continuing rebellion by factions of NDFB, is in majority in the council. 

Conclusion:

  • True autonomy, true peace, and true development are always worth more than the paper on which they are promised.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 15 April 2020 (Our expectations could mutate in response to the coronavirus (The Hindu))



Our expectations could mutate in response to the coronavirus (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2: Health 
Prelims level: Novel Coronaviruses
Mains level: Viral outbreak worldwide due to manmade disasters 

Context:

  • In December 2019, an outbreak of viral pneumonia of unknown etiology emerged in Wuhan, a city in the central Chinese province of Hubei. 
  • A few weeks later, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Chinese health authorities announced the discovery of a novel coronavirus, known now as 2019-nCoV, as being responsible for the pneumonia.

Vulnerability:

  • The outbreak led to an unprecedented escalation and an equally unprecedented response. 
  • The two most important questions asked in a fast-evolving pandemic of this nature are: 
  • How deadly is the disease, and; 
  • Can it be contained? 

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Measures taken by the countries: 

  • The attempt at containment started late, but has never been attempted in the fashion that China has gone about it. 
  • Belatedly, on 23 January, China locked down Wuhan and 12 other cities, quarantining 52 million people in one sweeping action. 
  • This is the first known case in modern history of any country locking down an entire large city. Confirmed cases have since been reported from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Australia and the US. 
  • India reported its first case from Kerala of a medical student from Wuhan University, followed by two more. 
  • Singapore and the US have now banned foreign nationals who have recently been in China from entering the country. 
  • Russia, Canada, the UK and India have begun evacuating citizens from Hubei province.

Outbreak epidemic in the past:

  • The two outbreaks in recent memory that can shed light on the effectiveness of containment are the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, which spread from China and was contained in nine months, and the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, which began in Mexico and spread globally. 
  • The case fatality for the H1N1 flu eventually turned out to be 0.1% and for SARS, 10%. 
  • The one distinguishing feature of the new coronavirus appears to be that it can be transmitted even when patients are asymptomatic, making detection of febrile cases at checkpoints an inadequate method of containment.

Novel Coronaviruses:

  • Coronaviruses (CoVs) are characterized by club-like spikes that project from their surface, an unusually large RNA genome and a unique replication strategy.
  • CoVs cause a variety of diseases in mammals and birds, ranging from enteritis in hoofed animals to potentially lethal human respiratory infections. 
  • The 2019-nCov genome was sequenced in China. 
  • It suggests that the original host of this coronavirus was a bat reservoir, though it is unclear whether there was an intermediate host. 
  • The uniformity of the sequenced genome suggests that the virus has entered human hosts very recently. Chinese health authorities were the first to post the full genome of the 2019-nCoV in public international databases. 
  • Subsequently, several other countries, including the US and France, have sequenced the RNA of the 2019-nCoV as well. 
  • These sequences and their similarity to the initial samples from China suggest a single, recent emergence from an animal reservoir.

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Challenges to India’s health system:

  • For India, this global health emergency should serve as an eye-opener. Only time will tell if the lockdown of Wuhan was an effective or draconian measure. 
  • If it turns out to be a useful tool to prevent the spread of a deadly virus, India will need to develop the framework and capacity to implement such a drastic measure. 
  • Our municipalities are hopelessly under-equipped to implement strict isolation and containment strategies. 
  • We will need to develop the capacity to build large facilities for housing patients in isolation wards. 
  • This will require India to accelerate the use of construction methods like pre-cast technology.
  • The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has been proactive in updating its protocol related to the 2019-nCov and has clear instructions for reporting and assay preparation. 
  • Samples in India need to be sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune. 
  • While the public health and epidemic escalation framework appears capable of handling a small number of cases well, it is not clear how it will stand up to large number of cases in a specific geographic region.

Way ahead:

  • Even though there is some criticism of China for having initially reacted slowly, once the Chinese authorities began to move in January, they have proceeded with dramatic purpose and tremendous speed.
  • In some ways, China is setting the standard for a public health response that may become a necessary way of life in the 21st century. 
  • India must use this as a guidepost to greater preparedness.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 15 April 2020 (Govt yet to shed ‘charity approach’ towards persons with disabilities (The Hindu))



Govt yet to shed ‘charity approach’ towards persons with disabilities (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2: Social Justice 
Prelims level: Accessible India Campaign
Mains level: Welfare schemes for the vulnerable sections of the society 

Context:

  • The aspirations of persons with disabilities in Union Budget 2020 were once again shattered with the Finance Minister announcing a meagre amount of Rs 9500 crore for senior citizens and persons with disabilities. 
  • The charity approach toward persons with disabilities can be still seen with them featuring under the care group of the development agenda and not under the aspirational group. 
  • This in itself sets persons with disabilities a step backwards in the line of inclusion.

Background:

  • The official documents still continue to refer to the 1995 Persons with Disabilities Act for detailing their statutory obligations concerning persons with disabilities. 
  • The faulty policy-making blatantly ignores the newly enacted Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and diverges from the social approach towards disability adopted under the new Act. 

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What is the Accessible India Campaign?

  • The Accessible India Campaign (AIC) which is one of the flagship programmes for accessibility does not find any mention in the Budget. 
  • Although the AIC was successful more on the level of creating a noise around accessibility, its vision was not translated on the ground due to lack of accountability framework and transparency. 
  • While hopes were pinned on its better implementation, lack of a financial framework has made it defunct.

Key concern:

  • India has the largest concentration of persons with disabilities who face multiple vulnerabilities and deprivations as the majority population continue to live in poverty. 
  • Accounting for the additional costs of disability increases poverty at both the extensive and intensive margin as the poverty rate amongst households with disabled member’s increases from 18 per cent to 34 per cent. 
  • Poor households with disabled members fall seven per cent below the poverty line on average when the cost of disability is ignored. Accounting for the same can reduce this to three per cent. 
  • Accessibility to the physical, social, economic and cultural environment, to health and education and to information and communication is important in enabling persons with disabilities to fully enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms. 
  • Research and promotion of universal design in products and services is important to ensure accessibility requirements of persons with disabilities. 
  • And the budget document reveals that no allocation of funds has been made for research on disability-related technology and products and neither for establishment of colleges for hearing impaired. 

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Proper allocation of funds and simplifying tax benefits:

  • Proper funds should be allocated for the implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. 
  • GST should be completely removed on goods used by persons with disabilities as it imposes high cost on products. 
  • The income tax ceiling for people with disabilities and those with dependents with disabilities should be increased to Rs 5 lakh. 
  • Increase in 80U exemption from Rs 75,000 for people with less than 75% disabilities and Rs 1,25,000 for people with over 75% disabilities to Rs 1,50,000 and Rs 3,00,000 respectively. 
  • Increase in deduction on 80D from Rs 50,000 per dependent to Rs 1,00,000 per dependent. 
  • A database of taxpayers availing 80U deductions must be maintained. This will throw light on the number of taxpayers who have a Disability. 
  • A deduction of up to Rs 40,000 is allowed for the treatment of specified ailments such as thalassemia. This should be increased to the actual expenses or at least Rs 1 lakh (For example, a thalassemia major patient can spend up to Rs 1-2 Lakh pa). 
  • The list must be updated to align with the RPWD Act and ailments such as multiple sclerosis must be also recognised for such exemptions.

Conclusion:

  • ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ can only be a reality when the government realises that “sab” includes people with different disabilities at different stages of their lives and their ‘vikas’ becomes imperative to the overall health of the Indian economy.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 15 April 2020 (What Brexit means for the EU and its partners (Mint))



What Brexit means for the EU and its partners (Mint)



Mains Paper 2: International 
Prelims level: Brexit
Mains level: Various international organizations and their aftermath challenges disputes 

Context:

  • On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom left the European Union. 

A structured exit:

  • This is largely thanks to the Withdrawal Agreement that we negotiated with the U.K., which enabled us to secure “an orderly Brexit”. 
  • One that, at least for now, minimises disruption for our citizens, businesses, public administrations, as well as for our international partners.
  • Under this agreement, the EU and the U.K. agreed on a transition period, until the end of 2020 at least, during which the U.K. will continue to participate in the EU’s Customs Union and in the Single Market, and to apply EU law, even if it is no longer a Member State. 

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Element of continuity:

  • By leaving the Union, the U.K. automatically, mechanically, legally, leaves hundreds of international agreements concluded by or on behalf of the Union, to the benefit of its Member States, on topics as different as trade, aviation, fisheries or civil nuclear cooperation. 
  • We now have to build a new partnership between the EU and the U.K. 
  • That work will start in a few weeks as soon as the EU 27 Member States have approved the negotiating mandate proposed by the European Commission.
  • To setting out our terms and ambitions for achieving the closest possible partnership with a country which will remain our ally, our partner and our friend. 

Shared and deep links:

  • The EU and the U.K. are bound by history, by geography, culture, shared values and principles and a strong belief in rules-based multilateralism. 
  • Our future partnership will reflect these links and shared beliefs. 
  • We want to go well beyond trade and keep working together on security and defence, areas where the U.K. has experiences and assets that are best used as part of a common effort. 
  • In a world of big challenges and change, of turmoil and transition, we must consult each other and cooperate, bilaterally and in key regional and global fora, such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the G20. 

Challenges ahead:

  • It is perhaps a cliché but the basic truth is that today’s global challenges — from climate change, to cybercrime, terrorism or inequality — require collective responses. 
  • The more the U.K. is able to work in lockstep with the EU and together with partners around the world, the greater our chances of addressing these challenges effectively.
  • At the very core of the EU project is the idea that we are stronger together; that pooling our resources and initiatives is the best way of achieving common goals. 
  • Brexit does not change this, and we will continue to take this project forward as 27.
  • Together, the 27 Member States will continue to form a single market of 450 million citizens and more than 20 million businesses. 

Conclusion:

  • The European Union will continue to be a partner you can trust. 
  • A steadfast defender of rules-based multilateralism, working with our partners to make the world more secure and fair.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 15 April 2020 (On shortage of doctors (Mint))



On shortage of doctors (Mint)



Mains Paper 2: Health 
Prelims level: Not much 
Mains level: Key challenges for the government to implement PPP model in healthcare system

Context:

  • Centre pushes to attach medical colleges to existing district hospitals in the public-private partnership (PPP) mode, to ostensibly address the shortage of doctors in the country.

Background:

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in the Union Budget speech, introduced the proposal and stated that those States that fully allow the facilities of the hospital to the medical college and wish to provide land at a concession would be eligible for viability gap funding. 

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Key challenges for the government to implement PPP model:

  • It argues that it is practically not possible for Central and State governments to bridge the gaps in medical education with their limited resources and finances, necessitating the formation of a PPP model, “combining the strengths of both sectors”. 
  • This would augment the number of medical seats available and moderate the costs of medical education. 
  • Experts have argued that the NITI Aayog has not given sufficient play to the role of the district hospital as the pivot of primary health care in every State. 
  • Allowing private parties to “operate and maintain the district hospital and provide healthcare services” could seriously dent public health services. 
  • It is problematic that the NITI Aayog envisages the creation of “free” patients versus others, because this will create a new category of have-nots. 
  • A working draft of the concessionaire agreement indicates that the private firm “can demand, collect and appropriate hospital charges from patients”. 
  • There is understandable opposition to the scheme in States such as Tamil Nadu that have a robust public health-care system, and a medical college in nearly every district. 
  • These States are naturally loath to turning over a key unit in their health-care network, which is running reasonably efficiently, to the private sector motivated by profit rather than public interest.

Way ahead:

  • Ultimately, eternal vigil will be the price of going for this new mode. 
  • Creating quality medical professionals for the country should definitely be on any government’s to-do list, destabilising people’s access to affordable public health services, will be disastrous. 
  • Viability gap funding is provided for projects that the government does not find commercially viable because of long gestation periods, and relatively minor revenue flows, and involves PPP, but this instant situation calls for pause: Health fits square in the State’s welfare role. 
  • The government must consider raising health-care spending beyond the usual under 2% of GDP, and ensure more resources are available to provide free, quality health care to all. 

Conclusion:

  • It does stay on its path of giving the private sector some control over district hospitals, it will do well to be wary of the camel in the tent.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 14 April 2020 (Ambedkar and the Poona Pact (The Hindu))



Ambedkar and the Poona Pact (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:Polity 
Prelims level:Poona Pact 
Mains level:Role of Poona pact by making of Indian Constitution 

Context:

  • In late September 1932, B.R. Ambedkar negotiated the Poona Pact with Mahatma Gandhi. The background to the Poona Pact was the Communal Award of August 1932, which, among other things, reserved 71 seats in the central legislature for the depressed classes. 
  • Gandhi, who was opposed to the Communal Award, saw it as a British attempt to split Hindus, and began a fast unto death to have it repealed.

Fair representation:

  • In a settlement negotiated with Gandhi, Ambedkar agreed for depressed class candidates to be elected by a joint electorate. However, on his insistence, slightly over twice as many seats (147) were reserved for the depressed classes in the legislature than what had been allotted under the Communal Award. 
  • In addition, the Poona Pact assured a fair representation of the depressed classes in the public services while earmarking a portion of the educational grant for their uplift.
  • The Poona Pact was an emphatic acceptance by upper-class Hindus that the depressed classes constituted the most discriminated sections of Hindu society. 
  • It was also conceded that something concrete had to be done to give them a political voice as well as a leg-up to lift them from a backwardness they could not otherwise overcome.

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Signing Poona pact:

  • Perry Anderson and Arundhati Roy argued that Gandhi through his fast coerced Ambedkar into the Poona Pact. 
  • Ambedkar, however, was hardly the person to bend to someone else’s will. As he observed in a talk years later, he was clear he would not “tolerate anyone on whose will and consent settlement depends, to stand on dignity and play the Grand Moghul.”
  • It is also highly unlikely that an erudite and sharp person like Ambedkar would not have weighed the consequences of not signing the Poona Pact. 
  • It would also not have been lost on him that Muhammad Ali Jinnah, with the Muslims of India strongly backing him, was watching and waiting to take advantage of the evolving situation.

Positive outcomes:

  • The Poona Pact had several positive outcomes for Ambedkar. It emphatically sealed his leadership of the depressed classes across India. He made the entire country, and not just the Congress Party, morally responsible for the uplift of the depressed classes. 
  • Most of all he succeeded in making the depressed classes a formidable political force for the first time in history.
  • As a practical man Ambedkar was not looking for the perfect solution. As he remarked in a 1943 address to mark the 101st birthday celebrations of Mahadev Govind Ranade, all he wanted was “a settlement of some sort”; that he was not “prepared to wait for an ideal settlement”. 
  • It is very much in this spirit that he affixed his signature to the Poona Pact saving Gandhi’s life as well as that of the Congress Party’s while giving a big voice to the depressed classes.

Conclusion:

  • On the 129th year of his birth on April 14 this year, we would do well to remember Ambedkar as much for the Poona Pact as we do for the Constitution he helped conjure. Without the former, the latter would never have been.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 14 April 2020 (Google, pay : on re-use of news content(The Hindu))



Google, pay: on re-use of news content(The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:International 
Prelims level:Google 
Mains level:Paying for reusing news content 

Context:

  • Last week’s ruling by France’s competition regulator that Google must pay news publishers and agencies for re-use of their content marks a significant turn in what has been a see-saw battle between European regulators and publishers on the one hand and the tech giant on the other. 
  • How this ends and what this leads to could set the template for not just the news industry in France and Europe but also the rest of the world. For the time being, the ruling gives the beleaguered news industry in France a rare edge in its dealings with the tech giant. 

Plight of new publishers:

  • Over the last two decades, even as publishers across the world struggled to make a commercially meaningful transition to the digital world, Google became the primary gateway for readers. 
  • While this worked well for the readers and for Google, which as a result could build a mammoth advertising business, it never worked well enough for news publishers, notwithstanding the increase in traffic they experienced. 
  • Many publishers are, hence, now in a position where they can neither let go of their dependence on the tech giant nor make monetary sense from this arrangement. 
  • Also, individually, they are too small to challenge Google’s might. It is by recognising the skewed nature of this copyright marketplace that the European legislators amended rules in April last year — something which France then gave force to in July.

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Genesis of the order:

  • The genesis of the order by the French competition regulator was a complaint filed against Google by unions representing publishers. 
  • They charged Google with abusing its dominant position in response to the law, which seeks to create fairer grounds of negotiation. This it does by allowing for the possibility of publishers to be paid for article extracts picked up by aggregators. 
  • The complaint was that Google, on the grounds of complying with the new law, decided it would not display the extracts and other elements unless publishers authorise free usage. 
  • The regulator said it found that Google’s practices “were likely to constitute an abuse of a dominant position, and caused serious and immediate harm to the press sector.” It could be argued that the French case will do little to shake up the existing framework. 

Conclusion:

  • Previous legislative attempts by other European Union constituents, such as Germany and Spain, to allow for such extracts to be monetised by publishers have proved counterproductive. For instance, Google ended up shutting down its news service in Spain. 
  • But the French attempt promises to end differently. That is because, built in in the regulator’s order is a requirement that negotiations “effectively result in a proposal for remuneration from Google.” Where will this go from here? Publishers across the world will be watching.
  • The French template for the search engine paying for reuse of news holds promise.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 14 April 2020 (Sacking by subterfuge: on removal of AP top election official(The Hindu))



Sacking by subterfuge: on removal of AP top election official(The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:Polity 
Prelims level:State Election Commissioner
Mains level:Removal process of the State Election Commissioner

Context:

  • The legality of the removal of the Andhra Pradesh State Election Commissioner (SEC) is seriously in doubt. That it was the culmination of an open conflict between the Election Commissioner, N. Ramesh Kumar, and Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy makes it a glaring instance of misuse of power. 
  • The State government got the Governor to issue an ordinance to cut the SEC’s tenure from five to three years, and amend the criterion for holding that office from being an officer of the rank of Principal Secretary and above to one who had served as a High Court judge. 

Use of ordinance:

  • This automatically rendered Mr. Kumar’s continuance invalid. Last month, just days before the local body polls were to be held, the SEC postponed the elections, citing the COVID-19 outbreak. The State government approached the Supreme Court, but the court declined to interfere. 
  • Having exhausted its legal remedy, the government should have waited for the ongoing fight against the disease to be over. Mr. Reddy’s allegation that the SEC, an appointee of his predecessor N. Chandrababu Naidu, postponed the polls to prevent a sweep by the YSR Congress may or may not be true. 

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Aparmita Prasad Singh vs. State of U.P. (2007):

  • The State government seems to have gone by legal opinion that cited Aparmita Prasad Singh vs. State of U.P. (2007) in which the Allahabad High Court ruled that cessation of tenure does not amount to removal, and upheld the State Election Commissioner’s term being cut short. 
  • The Supreme Court, while dismissing an appeal against the order, kept open the legal questions arising from the case. The judgment seems erroneous, as it gives a carte blanche to the State government to remove an inconvenient election authority by merely changing the tenure or retirement age. 
  • This was surely not what was envisioned by Parliament, which wrote into the Constitution provisions to safeguard the independence of the State Election Commission. It is a well-settled principle in law that what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly. 
  • Therefore, the removal of an incumbent SEC through the subterfuge of changing the eligibility norms for appointment may not survive judicial scrutiny. 
  • Further, the Constitution, under Article 243K, prohibits the variation of any condition of service to the detriment of any incumbent. 

Conclusion:

  • Even if the State government argues that a change of tenure does not amount to varying the conditions of service, the new norm can only apply to the successor SEC, and not the one holding the office now.
  • Removal of A.P.’s top election official through ordinance route is a case of abuse of power.

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